The French landscape painter and etcher Pierre Étienne Théodore Rousseau was born on April 15, 1812 in Paris. Rousseau received his first lessons from his cousin, the painter Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (1791 – 1848). In 1827-28, he was able to study with the landscape painter Jean Charles Rémond (1795 – 1975) and stayed at the studio of the historic painter Guillaume Guillon-Lethière (1760 – 1832) from 1828 to the end of 1829. In the following year, the artist took a study trip to Auvergne and Normandy.
Théodore Rousseau made his debut in 1831 at the Paris Salon with a landscape from the Auvergne. The work "Driving the Cattle Home", which was created during a stay at the Col de Faucille (1834/35), was rejected by the jury of the Salon in 1836. His submissions to the following three Salons were not accepted. The artist did not submit in the following years and no longer exhibited publically until 1849, when a new jury was selected. This was the year that Théodore Rousseau received the medal for the First Class of the Parisian Salon.
He already painted in open nature (plein air) for the first time in the years 1832-33 and founded the artistic genre of "Paysage intime", which primarily took the motifs for its pictures from the forest of Fontainebleau.
Starting in 1836-37, Théodore Rousseau spent the winter months with the painters Narcisso Virgilio Diaz de la Peña (1807 – 76) and Théodore Caruelle d’Aligny (1798 – 1871) in Barbizon for the first time. From this time on, he returned every year. In 1848, he settled there permanently with his wife. The artist is considered the founder and main master of the School of Barbizon, which brought together the first open-air painters. Théodore Rousseau was represented in 1855 at the World Exhibition in Paris with 13 works. In addition, he received the Medal of Honor at the Paris World Exhibition of the year 1867.
In his precise depictions of the landscape, Théodore Rousseau strove to capture its mood and realistically reproduce it. One example of these frequently dark landscapes is sunset scenes. In the process, Rousseau oriented himself upon his models of Claude Lorrain (1600 – 82) and John Constable (1776 – 1837). The artist was also friends with Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863), George Sand (1804 – 76), and Jean-François Millet (1814 – 75).
Pierre Étienne Théodore Rousseau died on December 22, 1867 in Barbizon.